As per a new report from the US Department of Energy, the wind has officially surpassed solar as the quickest-growing source of energy in the country this year. According to the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy’s 2021 Land-Based Wind Market Report, the United States installed a record 16,836 megawatts of wind power in 2021.
Despite solar enjoying a “record-breaking season” for new additions, wind exceeded solar capacity expansions for the very first time. Wind and solar power added more capacity than any other power source, surpassing natural gas capacity increases, which plummeted to a five-year low. New wind turbines accounted for roughly 80% of new power additions in the Southwest.
This implies we can build more turbines, bigger turbines, for less money, in both standalone farms and hybrid facilities that mix wind generation with fossil fuels, solar, as well as battery storage (there were about 38 hybrid facilities at the close of 2020, the report stated). The overall rotor size has developed by 159 percent to 408 feet since the late 1990s, while the overall turbine height has climbed by 59% to 295 feet, and the country now has over 67,000 turbines in aggregate. Even if their performance has improved, they’re the cheapest they’ve ever been to create, costing roughly $800 for every kilowatt, down from $1800 for every kilowatt in 2008.
In 2020, the United States ranked second (behind China) in terms of yearly and overall wind power capacity increases, thanks to over $25 billion in tax subsidies, research and development, and expansion of manufacturing and operations as well as maintenance facilities.
This investment has paid off, not just in terms of moving the country closer to meeting renewable energy goals set by state and federal governments but also in terms of reducing the costs of our collective dependency on fossil fuels. According to the report, the health and climate benefits of wind are worth $76 per megawatt-hour on a national scale because every unit of wind-generated eliminates the requirement for the same unit of polluting energy (recent research has linked air pollution from fossil fuels to approximately 20% of deaths worldwide).
“Wind reduces nitrogen oxides, carbon dioxide, and sulphur dioxide emissions, resulting in public health and climate advantages,” according to the report. According to the analysis, the financial benefits of decreasing these pollutants are nearly triple the cost of generating wind energy.
The analysis claims that land-locked states in the country’s center stand to benefit the most from developing land-based wind technology (importantly, this report does not have statistics on the offshore wind technology, which the coastal states such as the New York are building out, and that represent a potentially important source of energy).